The earliest humans settled in Peru as early as 14,000 years ago and have been the center of a number of major Andean civilizations, including the Chimu and most notable the Incas, who controlled around 30% of South America from their seat of power in Cuzco. The Spanish Conquistador Fransisco Pizarro led the conquest of the empire, resulting in his execution of the emperor Atahualpa in 1533, and founded Lima as the Capital in 1535. Gold and silver mining was the primary economic activity of the Viceroyalty of Peru, from the 16th century through to the industries initial decline in the 18th century.
Peru declared independence from Spain in 1821 and had achieved it with the assistance of Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín by 1824.
Political strife and military rule dominated most of the 20th century in Peru, but the election of Alberto Fujimori in 1990 led to constitutional and economic reform, privatizations, increased foreign investment and sound stewardship of the economy. Ollanta Humala Tasso was elected president in 2011 and has continued the sound, market orientated policies of his predecessors.
Peru covers almost 1.3 million square kilometers and shares borders with Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador and lies on the Pacific Coast. Peru has three traditional geographic regions, which are delineated by the Andes Mountains that run parallel to the coast. The Costa in the west is a narrow, largely arid plain but contains Peru’s major cities. The Sierra is the mountain highland region containing two major ranges of the Andes, the Cordillera Oriental and Occidental (East and West ranges) and includes the Altiplano plateau. In the east there is the Selva, part of the Amazon Basin, an area of tropical lowlands that accounts for approximately 60% of Peru’s land area.
Peru is a multi-ethnic country with a population of over 30 million people. Approximately 45% of the population is indigenous Amerindians, 36% Mestizo (mixed indigenous and white), 15% white with the remaining made up from black Africans, Japanese, Chinese and others.
Spanish is the primary language, although Quechua, the language of the Incas, and Aymara are also officially recognized languages, along with many other indigenous languages and dialects. Many Peruvians would speak Spanish only as their second tongue.